Written by KC Sawyer
Let’s face it: most people love being in the company of a lot of people.
As a musician, I have a strong preference to perform in front of a large audience. Meanwhile, derision is directed towards professional sports teams that have low attendance. Frat houses generally like to throw large house parties, lest prospective drunk college kids look for a ‘livelier’ party.
The same generally holds true for church. Most of us generally like to be in the presence of a large assembly of believers.
Honestly, this isn’t a bad thing. First of all, as Christians, we are exhorted in Hebrews to assemble:
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Also, the first church was a BIG one!
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
As Christians, we MUST have a desire to see as many people as possible come to faith in Christ Jesus. Ideally, every church in America, and in the world, should be overflowing with individuals. However, due to circumstances, and many factors (which I could discuss at length), not every church is of a large size.
Oasis Christian Fellowship is a small church, and yet, it is a church of tremendous impact.
I have been involved with a few ministries at the ground level. I’ve watched ministries start from a little seed, to watching the sapling break the ground surface.
I won’t lie and say that these experiences were always uplifting. I often wonder about the thoughts going through the Apostle Paul’s mind as he and the other apostles worked to establish the early church. In 2 Corinthians Ch.11, Paul talks about some of what he endured for the advance of the Gospel.
We know, through the evidence of history, that the apostles were successful in establishing the church. The Gospel has spread across all continents and all nations, and is still impacting our world in profound ways.
I take great inspiration in this!
As I said earlier, Oasis is a small church. I’m old enough to remember times of higher, and lower, average attendance than we have now. In 1984, our 1st year, we had 6 people! By the early to mid ‘90s, we had an average attendance of 30-50 people. Today, on a good Sunday, we’ll have 30 in attendance; on average, it’s 15-20.
What does this mean for our members? It means that all hands are on deck! Most of our regular members are also leaders, and not just at Oasis!
Personally, I serve as a worship team member, webmaster, mentor, building administrator, and occasional preacher, among other roles. My good friend, Caleb, performs many of the same duties here at Oasis.
Regardless of church size, there are ALWAYS areas where you can serve. However, in a larger body, it is usually easier to find help for the areas where you wish to serve. In a smaller church, often times, you will carry a burden of service alone.
This brings me to my point.
When you carry a burden by yourself, or with a small group, you are forced to do two things: first, you learn to go to God for your help.
1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
Second, you are forced to grow in faith (remember: I can’t rely on the faith of my large support group). You learn how to put on the ‘Armor of God’. We all know people who are better with “hands on learning”. In a small church, it is guaranteed that you will have “hands on learning”. Take some time and read Ephesians 6:10-20 concerning the ‘Armor of God’.
Additionally, we know that Jesus can assign important tasks to small groups. When dealing with the issue of a sinning brother, Jesus made it clear that he will be with the ‘two or three’ assigned to the task:
19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
This ‘forced growth’ has had major impact on my life. I have learned how to worship God when the music isn’t perfect (sometimes, I’m the only musician available for the worship team). I’ve learned to pray and cry out to God for help… because I didn’t really have much help for the many burdens I had. I’ve learned how to stay strong when it doesn’t seem like much is happening.
This growth allowed me to start the Christian hip-hop band Neverdrown: a group that will soon be touring the region through our record label, and independent ministry, New Vine Media. I also serve as a manager at New Vine Media. Remember, many of us at Oasis serve our home church, and network with the local community of Christ in the Ithaca area! We’re a small church, but not an isolated church!
We’re a small church, but we’re certainly not a dead church!
Oasis Christian Fellowship has been around for over 30 years. Being in close proximity to Cornell, we have had students come through our church, and they are now blessing far-away lands. We’ve nurtured a group of at-risk youths, who today are THRIVING in their walk with Jesus! We sponsor poor children in India. We’ve led the Christian community locally in raising funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina. We’ve supported worthy causes like the aforementioned New Vine Media, Ithaca Pregnancy Center, and the Rescue Mission of Ithaca. Oasis has birthed 3 Christian bands (1 which is still performing and one which performed at Kingdom Bound), and birthed a former record label.
Oasis has been my home for over 30 years (I’m 35 now). My father is also my pastor. You learn a lot by watching a man labor to keep a ministry thriving, despite the numbers. I wake up every day excited about the new opportunities to serve God at Oasis. I guess that sums up why I never left:
It makes me glad to serve the Lord!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
With that, I look forward to serving with YOU at Oasis Christian Fellowship of Ithaca, NY.